In a case related to the 2G telecom spectrum allocation scam, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Friday filed a charge sheet, naming the Maran brothers — Dayanidhi and Kalanithi.
Dayanidhi Maran is the third Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam MP and the second former minister in the United Progressive Alliance government to be chargesheeted in the scam. Earlier, A Raja and Kanimozhi were in judicial custody for several months.
The investigative agency told a special CBI court Malaysia-based Maxis Communication had paid a bribe for telecom licences in the garb of investment in a company run by business tycoon Kalanithi Maran. The licences were granted during Dayanidhi Maran’s term as telecom minister (2004-2007).
Evidence for the charge sheet was brought to the court in nine trunks; the documents could not be fully scanned due to paucity of time.
Besides the Maran brothers, the CBI named Augustus Ralph Marshall and T Ananda Krishnan for criminal conspiracy, under various provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act. The same charges were mentioned against Sun Direct TV Pvt Ltd, UK-based Astro All Asia Network Plc, Malaysia-based Maxis Communication Bhd, and Mauritius-based South Asia Entertainment Holdings Ltd. While Marshall is deputy chairman of Astro and director of Maxis, Krishnan is a Malaysia-based billionaire and philanthropist who owns Maxis. Kalanithi Maran is the promoter of Sun TV.
In its charge sheet, filed before special CBI judge O P Saini, the agency also named former telecom secretary J S Sarma, who died during the course of the investigation.
“We have got enough evidence in the case. The total bribe money paid to the Marans, through equity purchase, was about Rs 600 crore,” a senior CBI official said on condition of anonymity.
|AIRCEL-MAXIS: THE STORY SO FAR|
“The investigation revealed Maran had allegedly abused his official position and constricted the business environment of Chennai-based private firm on frivolous grounds, with the intent to force its exit from telecom business and its sale to a Malaysia-based company. After the change of ownership, the requests/approvals pending since long before the Department of Telecommunications were acceded to and undue favour was given to these companies after such a transfer, for which an alleged illegal gratification of Rs 549 crore was paid by a UK-based company to a Chennai-based TV company in the garb of a purchase of its shares at a premium of Rs 69.57 a share through the subsidiary of a Mauritius-based company (total investment of Rs 629 crore approximately). Besides, an illegal gratification of Rs 193 crore (approximately) was also paid by the UK-based company to a company of Chennai, through the subsidiaries of a Mauritius-based monitoring company and another software company of Mauritius,” the CBI said in a statement.
“The aspect of the irregularity in grant of FIPB (Foreign Investment Promotion Board) approval to the Mauritius-based company and the role of the Indian partner company of Chennai in holding 26 per cent equity of the Chennai-based company is being further investigated,” it added.
The Marans and a Sun TV spokesperson could not be immediately reached for comment. Mails sent to Maxis and Aircel did not elicit any response till the time of going to press.
CBI court judge Saini will take cognisance of the charge sheet on September 11 and will summon the accused accordingly. A judge can reject an investigation if he doesn’t find enough merit in the charge sheet at this level.
Following a directive of the Supreme Court, the CBI had registered a criminal case on 2G scam in October 2011. The apex court, which is monitoring all investigations related to the case, had told the CBI to probe the grant of all telecom licences between 2001 and 2007.
Investigation in this case began after C Sivasankaran complained to the CBI that Dayanidhi Maran had coerced him to sell his telecom company Aircel to Maxis, before granting Aircel 14 telecom licences. He added Dayanidhi hadn’t cleared the licences to his company until it was sold to Maxis. It was alleged in return, Maxis, through Astro, bought stake in the Kalanithi-run Sun TV at a value much higher than the prevailing market rate.
In its charge sheet, the CBI said there was unnecessary delay in granting licences to Aircel, adding undue haste was shown when the company was sold to Maxis. Marshall, earlier part of both Maxis and Astro boards, played a key role in clearing the deal.
Earlier, Business Standard had reported Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi had disagreed with CBI Director Ranjit Sinha on filing a charge sheet in the case — while Rohatgi favoured the move, Sinha felt there wasn’t enough material to pursue a chargesheet.
In November 2013, the agency had referred the matter to Rohatgi’s predecessor, G E Vahanvati, but didn’t get a response. K K Venugopal, the CBI’s counsel in the case in the Supreme Court, had earlier told the court the Malaysian government had declined to part with information on the matter, saying “no criminality of T Ananda Krishnan has been established”, which further weakened the CBI’s argument.
(With inputs from Chennai bureau)